Friday, June 29, 2007

A little bit of History

It is interesting to see the gringos surprised when they find a Brazilian who doesn't want to go back to Brazil - especially if this Brazilian comes from Rio, one of the most beautiful (and contradictory) places on Earth. Well, my friends, I am one of those Brazilians.

Although I’ve never found myself in the middle of the chaos involving policemen and drug dealers – two of the most feared groups in the country – knowing that Rio suffers of such problems makes me deeply sad. Such a waste of beauty and potential happiness.

The Complexo do Alemão was in the international media this week as part of another chapter of our own little civil war. Not gonna talk about that though; it’s a boring sad story – I hope all the bad guys burn in hell, and by hell I mean somewhere ugly in the world – here and now. I want to write a little bit about Complexo do Alemão.

I was searching the origin of the name: it means literally The German’s complex – German being a guy. One of the things I love about being Brazilian is that we name (or nickname) everything, and in a funny way. According to the website Raizes em Movimento, the place got its name after Leonard Kaczmarkiewicz, a Polish that established himself in the area after the First World War and bought and sold land in what is known today as Morro do Alemão – German’s Hill. Because of his funny name – I doubt that anybody could even pronounce it - and his looks, Mr. Kaczmarkiewicz was called Alemão - German.

The place is formed by thirteen favelas (or shantytown or slums or communities – the politically correct term). The area is 437.880 m² wide and the highest spot is 138 m height. It was transformed in a neighborhood in 1993 and I read somewhere that there are around 65,000 souls surving there.

If we go back a couple of centuries, we learn that the place had a important role in the exploitation of coffee and sugar, and during the golden era (meaning literally the time that our gold was stolen and taken to Portugal). To say that progress brought benefits to the country – or more specifically to Rio de Janeiro – is very relative. My personal view says it damaged the city. Just look at the old pictures or read Machado de Assis books. I wish I was born at that time. But again, oppinion is like the asshole: everybody has one and one holds it dear.

Just to shock our international readers a little bit. Some years ago, a journalist was kidnapped, tortured and murdered by drug dealers after running a TV story on traffic and consume of drugs, and sexual exploitation of children in the area. The guys were so cruel that they burned him alive, cut him to pieces and buried him somewhere there.

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